St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Five

st helens circle history part 3St Helens Catenian Circle History-Part Five continues in this final instalment of the insightful and thought provoking story.

Backtracking to 1914, and in particular to procedural matters, it was customary to say the De Profundis for deceased members of the Association immediately after the formal opening of a circle meeting. As the year 1914 ended and 1915 had begun, it was noticeable that many deceased catenians were recorded as ‘killed in action’. There is mention of the Circle’s sympathy with Brother Baron when his son was killed in action.

Despite the war, the Circle continued to grow and at the first Circle AGM held on June  15th 1915 the Secretary reported that since the formation of the Circle 14 brothers had been initiated, one had lapsed and one had died, leaving a total membership of 30 brothers. The Treasure reported that the Circle funds totalled £29.18s.9d. At the AGM the officers for the year ending 31st May 1916 were elected, these were:-

President                                    Bro. G. Strinfellow

Vice President                           Bro. F.P. Dromgoole

Chamberlain                              Bro. J. Frodsham

President’s Marshall                Bro. W. Woodcock

V, President’s Marshall           Bro. J.A. Baron

Treasurer                                    Bro. J. Sephton

Secretary                                     Bro. J. Dennett

Guard                                           Bro. J. Davies

Registrar                                     Bro, W. Chisnall

The minute record that the above officers ‘were duly invested in their respective offices after which the circle was formally opened by Worthy Brother President’. At this meeting the brothers voted that no meetings would be held in August, a tradition that has only changed within the last few years.

The President also initiated two new brothers, Messrs H. McCormack and V. Wood.

A brief examination of membership at this time shows that Manchester, Liverpool and London Circles were causing concern by the sheer weight of their membership. Brothers were being persuaded to form satellite circles although there is evidence of resistance to this.

One can however, understand Grand Council’s concern when you realise that at one time Manchester Circle had over 400 brothers on it’s Roll! The earliest directory in my possession is dated 1920 and this gives the membership of Manchester as 303, London 328 and Liverpool 314. Quite a large number when one considers that by this date circles had already been formed round these cities (Liverpool Central, Wallasey and Manchester City being examples). At the council Meeting held on June 14th 1916 St Helens agreed to support a rule change proposed by Birmingham Circle that ‘a limit be put on the number of members in a circle’. The discussions must have been very prolonged because it was not until 1923 that Grand Council decreed ‘that no circle should have a membership of more than 100 and that the membership of Manchester Circle be frozen’.

Returning to events relating directly to our own Circle, my research had included the reading of the very first copies of Catena. This was first produced around 1916 and in the 1917 edition which by the way, is in the form of a hard backed book of two or three hundred pages, I discovered two items of historical interest relating to our Circle. The first being a report that brothers from Wigan Circle visited St Helens (referred to earlier) and the second being a report on the Circle Meeting held on December 19th 1917 where it was announced “that Brother Corporal Alfred Shacklady, B.Sc (father of our own Bro. Basil Shacklady)  has been mentioned in despatches for valuable services rendered in connection with the aerial defences of the United Kingdom. Bro. Shacklady joined the London Electrical engineers about two years ago and it was not long before his many excellent qualities gained recognition. For some time he has been in charge of an important section of the defences of London and has had many thrilling experiences during the various attacks upon the Metropolis by Zepps and Hun aeroplanes”. Bro Shacklady died on June 14th 1923 and perhaps this brief account will perpetuate his memory.

The Circle continued to meet at no 60 Crab St for a number of years, paying a rental to Bro. Sephton and also £5 per annum to Rev. Fr Riley, the Rector of Lowe House Church. Many houses in the vicinity were owned by the church and it is likely that No 60 Crab St was one of them. During these years the Circle paid for further alterations and renovations to the premises including re carpeting, they also paid for coal, gas and electric lighting. The Minute Book and Treasurers Ledger record payment of many bills to the St Helens Corporation Electric Light Installation Company and other suppliers. On the question of bills, the very last page of the Minute Book records a decision taken by Circle Council on June 17th 1917:-“It was resolved that members serving in H.M. Forces be not asked to pay their subscriptions and that they be omitted in the returns made to Grand Council for the purposes of levy”. I’m sure that a brother serving in France would not have pleased to receive a letter from the treasure saying that he was in arrears and facing expulsion! At this same meeting, Council agreed to issue a membership form to a Mr. H. Parr, a great uncle of mine! He was enrolled in October 1917.

As mentioned above, the last page of Minute Book No1 relates to matters occurring in June 1917 and it is at this point that the narrative ends. Sadly Minute Book No2 and others following have disappeared and therefore precise historical data is difficult to find. The Treasurer’s Ledger is useful in that it records somewhat briefly, financial transactions from 1914 to early 1960 and has enabled me to identify payments to individual brothers, to Grand Council, Benevolence Funds, suppliers, cleaners, fuel suppliers etc. This information, together with reference to Association directories, shows that the |Circle remained at Crab St until the early 1920’s. They returned to the Royal Raven in 1925 until 1928/29 and then moved to the newly built Grange Park Hotel, Prescot Road where they remained until 1957. In 1957 they returned once again to the Royal Raven Hotel.

If and when more information comes to light I may be tempted to update this narrative but perhaps now is the time to share it and pass it on to the ‘younger’ brothers of the Circle so that the infant years of our Circle are not lost forever.

Ron Parr

Note-Most of the research took place during 1996 and the manuscript re typed in 2001.

Our thanks to Brother Ron Parr for his permission in reproducing St Helens Circle History on this Website.

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